Reviews from 4–7 years
4 January 2008Add to My Folder
Nick Sharratt puts down his pens and picks up some top reads to recommend to young readers
The Magic Rabbit by Annette Le Blanc Cate
This is a really simple tale. A white rabbit gets separated from Ray, his human magician ‘business partner’ and wanders lost through a large city until, with the help of a trail of glittering stars, he’s eventually reunited with his friend and ‘his very own hat’. The illustrations are drawn in a scratchy ink line and, with the exception of the gold stars, shaded solely in grey tones, which feels just right for the urban setting and helps create real atmosphere as the day turns into night. There’s lots to look at in the parks, alleys and sidewalks (it’s an American city), and the book has a gentle charm that’s reflected in the text as well as the pictures. The happy ending is touching too and just cries out for a big ‘Ahhh!’
Twinkles, Arthur and Puss by Judith Kerr
Judith Kerr’s picture books exude great warmth and humanity and this one is no exception. Twinkles, Arthur and Puss are three rather similar-looking black cats, all with different owners. They each go missing, strangely enough on the very same day. There is much distress, night-time searches are organised and everyone is in for a surprise – well a litter of surprises actually. Kerr’s softly coloured characters look reassuringly friendly. There’s a jolly grandpa in a red bow tie, the lively Jones family, all seven of them, and my favourite, the sociable Lady Daisy who looks like a lot of fun in her floppy pink hat and purple boots, champagne bottle in hand. The carefully constructed plot will intrigue and delight young ones, the humour is pitched at just the right level, and the resolution is tremendously satisfying. A heart-warming book.
Stone Age Boy by Satoshi Kitamura
A young boy falls down a hole in a wood and, leaving his pastel shaded world behind, travels back 15,000 years to a brightly coloured Stone Age. There he meets a girl his own age who introduces him to her family and their way of life. He learns to make things from wood, stone, bones and animal skins. He gets to hunt, joins in rituals and marvels at cave paintings. And, when he’s transported back to the present day, he grows up to be an archaeologist. This book is an excellent introduction to looking at the past. The story is entertaining and informative in equal measure, and the stylish illustrations succeed brilliantly in being nicely factual and hugely enjoyable at the same time. I particularly like how Satoshi Kitamura has drawn the Stone Age people in a way that indicates that, aside from their flints and spears, our ancestors really weren’t that different to how we are nowadays.
The Tear Thief by Carol Ann Duffy and Nicoletta Ceccoli
This is a very sweet fairy story. The invisible Tear Thief stops children crying by stealing their tears, which she then scatters into the light of the moon. There are all kinds of tears: red tears of rage, green tears of envy, turquoise tears of self-pity, amber tears of guilt. But the most precious kind are tears of pure sadness, for they are the ones that give the most beautiful moon glow. It’s a delightful idea, magically brought to life by Nicoletta Ceccoli’s luminous and sensual illustrations. Her acrylic paintings masterfully capture the barely-there fairy as she flits around town on her mission. The varied angles and perspectives give a real sense of flying, and the delicate brushwork conveys to perfection the moistness of tears, glitter of puddles and sparkle of stars.
Addis Berner Bear Forgets by Joel Stewart
Another book that features a character adrift in a big city. This time it’s the bear of the title, who’s so distracted by the noise and bustle of his surroundings that he forgets why he’s come to town in the first place. Joel Stewart’s illustrations are ravishing but this city, at first glance gorgeous in the falling snow, reveals its harsh side too, with its unfriendly inhabitants, bag snatchers and things to make ‘his fur bristle’. The bear sleeps rough and finds companionship with the homeless people, one of whom is able to help him remember and fulfil the purpose of his visit (the trumpet case he carries is a clue), and there’s a triumphant and rather joyful ending. This is a sophisticated book. The pictures have a hazy, dreamlike quality to them and the pared-down text requires the reader to think hard about what is actually being said, but for the child whom it engages it is a beautiful and haunting experience and one that improves with each reading.